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A picture of Jon Johansen from his blog, titled "So Sue Me."
The notorious DVD Jon strikes at Apple's stranglehold on the PMP market

Jon Lech Johansen's claim to fame was helping to crack DVD encryption by creating a little thing called DeCSS. His feat earned him the moniker of DVD Jon, plus the attentions of the entire technical world and several legal authorities.

Now 22 and his own company, named DoubleTwist, Jon Johansen is set to unravel Apple's iPod/iTunes protection scheme. Fortune Magazine has the full story:

If you want to be specific - and for legal reasons, he does - Johansen has reverse-engineered FairPlay, the encryption technology Apple (Charts) uses to make the iPod a closed system. Right now, thanks to FairPlay, the songs Apple sells at its iTunes store cannot easily be played on other devices, and copy-protected songs purchased from other sites will not play on the iPod. (The iPod will play MP3 files, which do not have any copy protection, but major labels don't sell music in that format.)

Johansen's intention is not to release his findings to the public to create complete PMP anarchy. Rather, he plans to develop software for license to brave companies who are interested in opening up interoperability between software and devices.

Johansen has written programs that get around those restrictions: one that would let other companies sell copy-protected songs that play on the iPod, and another that would let other devices play iTunes songs. Starting this fall, his new company, DoubleTwist, will license them to anyone who wants to get into the digital-music business - and doesn't mind getting hate mail from Cupertino.

In accordance to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which DVD Jon keeps portions of near his desk, what DoubleTwist is attempting to do with its product is not to remove copy protection, but rather add a new layer of protection across a wider range of music players and software.

It probably goes without saying that Apple is very unhappy with Jon Johansen, but in some weird (double) twisted way, this whole thing benefits the iPod/iTunes maker. By opening up iTunes-purchased songs compatibility with other music players, Apple's stands to gain even more market share for its music software. On the other hand, the iPod would then lose some of its Apple chic and all the exclusivity that comes with it.

DoubleTwist already has a client licensing the 'crack' technology, which the company wishes to remain unidentified. Time will tell to see if the industry will catch on to Johansen's plans for the brave new world of online music.

In the meantime, DoubleTwist will continue its efforts to make good on a statement that Steve Jobs himself said back in 2002: "If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own."





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